Hidden Figures is a film based on the untold, true story of three brilliant African-American women mathematicians and engineers who worked at NASA, and played a key role in the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
What they did by persisting to be heard was a game-changer in breaking stereotypes of the time.
The film is directed by Theodore Melfi — director of St. Vincent, a film starring Bill Murray. Melfi was said to have been deep in talks to direct the next Spider Man, and gave it up to direct Hidden Figures — a story he thought too good to pass up.
The film is based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Author Margot Lee Shetterley also has ‘The Human Computer Project,’ an online resource dedicated to putting names and faces to the thousands of women who worked as computers, mathematicians, data analysts, aerospace technologists, and engineers at the NACA and NASA.
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson are played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. The trailer shows some beautiful moments of sisterhood, motherhood, and the challenges faced by African-American women in this profession during the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement.
In the film, we learn about Katherine Johnson — nicknamed “The Human Computer.” She recently turned 98, and last year received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in November for her contributions to rocket science. Katherine calculated the flight path for the first manned mission to the Moon — it seems crazy we haven’t heard much about her until now.
In a video on the Hidden Figures Movie website, there are some facts we learn about Katherine Johnson in tribute of her 98th birthday:
120 miles – that’s how far Katherine had to drive in order to obtain her high-school diploma.
15 – that’s how old she was when she began her freshman year of college.
20 – that’s how old Katherine was when she became the first African-American woman to attend West Virginia’s Grad school.
2,000 steps – that’s how far the colored bathrooms were from Katherine Johnson’s office.
116 miles – that’s how far up in space the first American flew because of human computers like Katherine.
26 – Academic papers.
5 – Honorary degrees.
4 – Great grand-children.
1 – Medal of Freedom.
98 – Years of age.
In the 60s, for years at NASA women had separate work spaces to men, and the white women were segregated from the black women who were known at the time as “colored computers.” Ms. Johnson pushed to be heard by the men and her calculations, once heard, proved invaluable.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Katherine responded with grace on how she felt at not being treated equally: “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.'”